7 Tips for your next public speaking assignment
Everyone, no matter how talented, will experience some sort of public speaking nerves. To start with: this is a good thing. A little tension will make your mind sharp and your performance strong. Nonetheless, fear of course should never get the overhand. Here are 7 tips that will help you to manage your fears for public speaking:
- Feel empowered by your client. Make sure to be on the same page as the person or organization who has invited you to present. What are their objectives with your presentation? And what can they tell you already about the audience [professional profile, knowledge level, culture]? You’ll feel more confident entering the speaker arena once you’ve walked through your presentation together with your client. The story of course is still yours, but it feels more as a joint production if both of you are on the same page and if you experience the trust of the hosting organization.
- Connect to the audience prior to your presentation. Getting familiar with your audience will help you to take away some of the fears. Often during events, everyone’s a little excited: new people, having to properly represent your organization, new people and topics to relate to. Keep in mind that you’re not the only one who is a little tensed. Be on time and mingle with the attendees. Or even welcome the audience in person as soon as they enter the venue. The click you will make, will make you feel more at ease.
- Entering your stage. Prior to the actual presentation, get yourself familiar with the room and your presentation stage. Are there aisles that you like to make use of to interact with the audience and if so, are they easily accessible? Also make sure there’s water present to prevent a dry mouth [often happening when you experience tension]. When all feels familiar and all is set, then it is time to enter the stage;
Upon entering the live stage, take a minute to look into your audience rather than talking straight away. This might feel funny to yourself, but it is actually a powerful silence that also your audience will appreciate!
- Be present in your body. The more grounded you feel, the more calm you’ll feel. Two things that you can be aware of are your breathing and your posture: most of us breathe from their chest [creating pressure on your vocal strings], whereas breathing from your belly will relax many of the upper body muscles. As an exercise prior to your performance: inhale three times, hold your breath for a short moment and exhale through your nose.
Being aware of your posture means standing up straight, but without locking your knees. As an experiment try to stand with your knees locked and then relax. Do you feel the difference? Great, now you’re already more conscious! If your hands go everywhere because of the stress, then try holding speaker cards or an iPad. And finally, make sure your head is loose and flexible on your neck: not glued to it.
- Ask a question. Kick off your presentation by asking the audience a question. Let attendees discuss in pairs and meanwhile experience some time to further get used to your speaker role. Briefly discuss outcomes and notice that your audience isn’t as scary as you might have expected. Next to live input, you can also ask a question through Sendsteps whereby attendees respond via their smartphones. In a glance you understand how a complete audience relates to a specific topic or statement!
- Write clever speaker cards. Speaker cards don’t carry entire sentences. They only have bullet points: once you see them, you know what to address. Remember: you’re the expert! Writing entire sentences will only confuse you. Carry a watch or set a timer and write per item the available time, to prevent the stress of time pressure. The speaker cards, either written on paper or typed on your tablet, will give you a sense of control.
- Practice, practice, practice! As with most things, the more often you do something, the easier it gets. Practice your presentation at home: in front of a mirror, a friend or tape it with your smartphone and watch it back. Also, find something to celebrate once your presentation is over and you did a magnificent job!
About the author
Robert is a professional moderator, presenter and speaker coach. Robert has years of experience at home and abroad and works for a broad range of industries. He has interviewed ministers, captains of industry and even His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In his dealings with the audience, he always uses Sendsteps. With it, an audience is able to voice their opinions, whereby attendees can cast votes or send in comments to speakers and panels on stage. As such, events turn into lively dialogues with everyone being able to speak up!